By James Ezema & Onyeka Ossai
A THIRD Republic Senator, Chief Anthony Adefuye turned 65 last month. In this interview with Vanguard, he spoke on what he described as his failed political adventure, his struggle for actualisation of June 12 1993 presidential election won by late business mogul, Chief M. K. O. Abiola, andÂ other national issues. Excerpts:
Looking around, there are no highly placed individuals here as you celebrate today. Is this deliberate?
A birthday is what you celebrate with people. It is not an occasion to show off. If I had got a hall, probably they wonâ€™t allow people to enter because when I had the wedding of my daughter a lot of people were calling me that they drove them back at the gate. I just wanted to sit at home with people who have not had opportunity to see me and who can use this avenue to interactÂ with me directly, chat and drink with me.
Thatâ€™s why there is no special person here. I particularly sent text messages to people I wanted to be with me today. And these are the people who always think about you, these are people who always wish you well because they know that when you are well, they are well also. So, when you are doing a birthday, there are people you need around you; people who are happy to be here, people who are happy that they are eating and dinning with you.
How does it really feel to be 65?
To be 65, let me be honest with you, I donâ€™t feel it personally. But I feel it when Iâ€™m in a public place and people greet me specially like wanting to prostrate, and I begin to look at myself like, â€˜how can this old man be prostrating to meâ€™, then I discover that Iâ€™m an old man myself. Really, you donâ€™t feel you are old. Of course, the only time you feel old is when you want to exert yourself, thinking you are a young man and then the body will tell you, no, you can’t do this.
Now, I never had intention of actually doing a thing to these level. But two weeks ago something happened. I went to Lekki Resort for a business meeting and we needed to drive round. They gave me a mono bike (beach bike) and as soon as I got to my own beach bike, it just accelerated, in fact, I thought I was going to die. And I was shouting to the people who own the bike that, â€˜look, what do I do?â€™ They said am the one accelerating.
I put my hands up (laughs) and said, â€˜Iâ€™m not the one accelerating and just as the bike was going to crash into a very big tree, it stopped itself. And everybody was like, â€˜what happened?â€™ Then, I told the man (bike owner), â€˜let us goâ€™. And the greatest shock was that I also went back on the same motor bike and we were driving for like the next 30 minutes, they were showing me round the place and nothing happened.
Then, somebody came to me, who said, â€˜you have guts. We thought you were dead and for you to even come back on that bike, you have guts. If I were the one, Iâ€™ll never touch that bike againâ€™. When the thing was happening, I never thought of it that way, but after the man told me that, I now sat down and thought, â€˜well, something must have happened; something must have taken control of that bikeâ€™. So, I was thinking â€˜oh, my God, so this was how I was going to spend my last days?â€™ Since then, I have not been engaged in any activity, I remained at home watching this 65, let make sure I get to itâ€™ (Laughs).
Would you then say that you are fulfilled at 65?
Well if you compare me with an ordinary man, yes, Iâ€™m fulfilled. But if you consider me as a politician, Iâ€™ve failed. Iâ€™ve failedÂ because we have not been able to really put up a system that make people in Nigeria to be proud of us. And I know people always say, â€˜politicians, politiciansâ€™. But it has not always been the politicians alone, the military also have their blame. Now, they haveÂ changed their uniform into civilian gown and have eaten deep into the political system. I donâ€™t believe that we should blame the politicians, I think we should blame ourselves.
But as a politician, Iâ€™m not happy that this is happening and we cannot do anything. And that is why youâ€™ll notice that in recent times I have been very quiet. Iâ€™ve almost withdrawn to myself, leaving this thing to the youths to take up their own destiny and educate the people. We must have a good election where people must be ready and be able to elect the leaders of their choice.
What is your impression about constituency allowance and how lawmakers spend it?
How many members of theÂ National AssemblyÂ were dulyÂ elected? That is how bad the National Assembly itself is. And that is the National Assembly that is supposed to monitor the government itself. Somebody called me recently and said why are we just folding our hands, do I know that a Senator is taking N50 million for a senatorial constituency allowance. And I said, it canâ€™t be true, where can they get N50 million per Senator? So, I said thatâ€™s almost an impossible thing. So it has come to watching people who have taken over government and are just doing it the way they like. Youâ€™ve not done anything to expose the situation to the people.
But for how long are we going to continue like this? If the journalists today say â€˜no, we must change this thing, it will just change because youâ€™re the defender of the defenseless, youâ€™re the pen of the illiterate, youâ€™re the soldier of the common man. You cannot allow all these situations to continue this way. Something must be done and if at 65, I still want to keep quiet, and not talk, and not try to make things change, I donâ€™t know what will happen when I get to heaven? Maybe theyâ€™ll drive me back for having failed completely.
Failing exam is not the bad thing there, but not knowing why you failed is the thing that is bad because, certainly, if you do it ten times, youâ€™ll not pass. But once you know why you failed the first exam, you can always repeat it and pass. So, itâ€™s not too late. You journalists must do something. People before us have tried their best. I know they suffered and nobody wants to suffer now. But something must be done to ensure that we fight corruption totally.
The bane of the whole thing is corruption. Even if you want to put your child in school now, I have seen people who have scored up to 80 percent and theyâ€™ve not been admitted into school. And When I now begin toÂ ask â€˜show me evidence why this child was not taken?â€™ Theyâ€™ll say, â€˜Ok, he didnâ€™t choose us as first choice, he didnâ€™t choose us as second choiceâ€™.
What is your evaluation ofÂ this administration’sÂ anti-corruption crusade?
The system has collapsed. It is just that Nigerians are good people, they donâ€™t want problems and they are amenable people and anywhere you bend them they tend to remain there. Weâ€™re so intimidated. I was in London last October. My daughter was going to marry and theÂ hotel where I normally stay, if I get there between 6 toÂ 7 p.m, I wouldnâ€™tÂ get a cheap room. So, I got there early enough, hoping to get a cheap room, they told me to wait to see if they could find one for me.
I saw Nigerians, most of them from a section of the country coming in with their children and taking suites, and after they were cleared theÂ waiterÂ called me and said, â€˜are you sure that youâ€™re really a Senator from Nigeria? All these people are Nigerians, they are looking for suites but you were looking for a cheap room.â€™ (Laughs). That is the situation weâ€™ve seen ourselves. Militants in Nigeria are rich men abroad. So, in what type of country are we? If you say youâ€™re a militant, what I expected you to do was to make sure that, at least, the governor renders account of the money he has taken on your behalf before you go and damage pipes that will provide electricity for all of us.
What would you consider as your high and low points in the last sixty-five years?
Well, I came into politics thinking that Iâ€™ll be able to solve problems for the people. When I was elected Senator, I think that was the high point. And if you remember, that was the era of June 12 presidential election annulment. In those years of struggle for de-annulment), I was the champion of the move to ensure that the election was de-annulled. And up till toady, anywhere I seeÂ Babangida he doesnâ€™t greet me, even if I stretch my hand.Â That was the high point when I was in the Senate.Â I did everything possible to ensure the de-annulment of the June 12 election.
The regrettable thing is that the people who actually annulled the June 12 election now became the beneficiaries. It was a former president, as we got to know later, that was the brain behind the annulment. And he became the sole beneficiary. As I said earlier, the high point was when I was elected and the low point was for me to now discover that the man we all helped to become president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was, in fact, the bra
in behind the annulment.
One wonders why you are not seekingÂ elective position again, like going back to the Senate for instance?
If I had gone back to the Senate, I probably would have lost all the respect I gained during the time I was there. I knew that there was nothing I would have achieved with a PDP government at the centre. The PDP as a party is not a collection of people of the same mind, who are prepared to give dividends of democracy to the people.
They are just people who believe that ganging up and having representatives in the states will give them upper hand in the control of the resources of the country. But what we need to do is now to begin to talk to the real politicians to drop their ambition first, let all of them come together and form a virile party that can really take over theÂ government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.